What ‘happened’ or what was there before the Big Bang? The scientific truth seems to be that we really don’t know.
But, one can speculate. And while I’m not a big fan of scientific speculation, I do want to note that the theory allows for one type of speculation which sounds rather familiar to anyone who has read Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 1 (in the ‘standard’ interpretation – more on that another time).
But don’t take my word for it, take the word of physicists in the field. Let’s hear what they have to say.
Speculating About Before the Big Bang
We’ll start with Professor Richard Muller of University of California, Berkeley. In this lecture on the Big Bang he begins to speculate about what happened before the Big Bang. The relevant section begins at 7 minutes into the video:
Let’s note some of Professor Muller’s main points.
First, he notes that we don’t have the physics or math to figure out what happens when we reach infinity. When one gets to the Big Bang itself (when you have an infinitely hot and dense universe) we don’t know what is going on. But, his favorite speculation is that the Big Bang is the beginning of the universe itself.
What does that mean? It means the beginning of space, matter and time.
And what existed before the Big Bang? “Nothing that we are familiar with! Nothing that we know of that we can talk about existing. But it could have started in this very energetic state.” And Professor Muller notes that this is a speculation shared by other physicists too.
Different Models of the Big Bang
Next we’ll move on to Professor Janna Levin from Columbia University. Here she discusses different models of the Big Bang. She starts out discussing the ‘simplest picture of the Big Bang’. Let’s see what she has to say:
So, the simplest picture of the Big Bang starts with nothing – no space, no time, no matter, no energy. Just the ‘potential’ to exist.
Professor Levin ends with “we know that something happened. Something which created a hot space from which the universe expanded and evolved”. The question is what created that hot space and what was there (or perhaps, better put, what wasn’t there) before that hot space. We don’t know – but nothing is a good candidate.
Some Unanswered Questions
There are, of course, some unanswered questions that we can wonder about. Did that energy exist ‘before’ the Big Bang or did it come into existence along with the Big Bang? What exactly is that ‘potential’ that Professor Levin mentioned? And what about the laws of physics? Did they exist ‘beforehand’ or did they also come into existence with the universe.
We’ll try and address those questions in a later post.